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Japan Nagano Togakushi Hiking Autumn Colors

20 October 2016

Not too early for color

Apparently the colorful leaf season hysteria does not start for weeks. No one told the place I went to today.
Because of colorful leaves, lots of people with full on camera gear were out and about filming for live leaf news which is shown before anything else on Japanese tv.
The place I went to was called Togakushi, which is over a couple of mountains, around a roller coaster figure 8 highway bridge and through some alarmingly narrow long tunnels.
All up, just over an hour on the bus.

The bus departing from Nagano station, conveniently just outside my hotel door, was 2 minutes late. This is bad, very bad! So bad that the bus company employees had to come out of the office and apologise to everyone. When they got to me one ran inside to find someone that spoke English, but before that person could be summoned for my apology bow, the bus arrived.

There are 5 large shrine complexes selling ice creams and bear bells to see in the Togakushi tourist exploitation zone. You can bus between them, or walk, as I did.
The scenery was magnificent, and despite all the warnings, I did not get eaten by a bear, even though I did not buy an expensive shrine endorsed bear bell. Everyone else had bells dinging all over themselves.

When I was at the top shrine, the mountain range behind it looked enticing. I had not planned for this! I had no water. I did not know how far it was. So I decided to walk up for an hour and see where that got me and turn back.
The path was treacherous, going down was perilous, but it was also great. A shame I did not plan for that to be my activity, however it seems it is a multiple day journey and you need proper gear.

Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - The late bus. So shameful. No face.

The late bus. So shameful. No face.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - There really were signs everywhere advising you that you will get eaten by a bear.

There really were signs everywhere advising you that you will get eaten by a bear.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - The path between the temples is designed for thousands of people to use. Not that many today, but there were certainly other people, dinging their bel

The path between the temples is designed for thousands of people to use. Not that many today, but there were certainly other people, dinging their bells to terrify the bears.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - I did not expect the leaves to be so great. Others did. There were tv crews and plenty of old guys with tripods and microphones filming and recording

I did not expect the leaves to be so great. Others did. There were tv crews and plenty of old guys with tripods and microphones filming and recording the sound of falling leaves.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - Clean your gutters.

Clean your gutters.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - The leaves are replaced by huge stands of cedar trees. The tourist website talks a lot about these.

The leaves are replaced by huge stands of cedar trees. The tourist website talks a lot about these.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - Of the hundreds of trees I went past, only this one was decorated and provided a plate to throw 1 cent pieces at.

Of the hundreds of trees I went past, only this one was decorated and provided a plate to throw 1 cent pieces at.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - This is the top temple, smaller than the others. The view down the valley wasnt that great which is surprising. Also you could not see the mountains b

This is the top temple, smaller than the others. The view down the valley wasnt that great which is surprising. Also you could not see the mountains behind it very well.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - These girls decided on their selfie spot, I kept my distance and photographed them photographing themselves photographing leaves.

These girls decided on their selfie spot, I kept my distance and photographed them photographing themselves photographing leaves.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - A bit further back, you can see the rocky mountains towering above. Now to work out how to get up there.

A bit further back, you can see the rocky mountains towering above. Now to work out how to get up there.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - After using tree roots as hand holds for an hour up what I presume was the path, this is as high as I could get before I thought I should turn back. I

After using tree roots as hand holds for an hour up what I presume was the path, this is as high as I could get before I thought I should turn back. It was hard work! Going down was even harder, had to crab walk a lot of the way down on all fours.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - The view on the way down was worth the hassle of dirty hands.

The view on the way down was worth the hassle of dirty hands.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - My bonus mini mountain climb meant I could enjoy a green tea ice cream from the shrine ice creamery.

My bonus mini mountain climb meant I could enjoy a green tea ice cream from the shrine ice creamery.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - Peak red. Theres actually a crowd assembled to take this photo. I am taller than them.

Peak red. Theres actually a crowd assembled to take this photo. I am taller than them.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - Walking back down the pilgrimage path to the other shrines gave some fantastic views of the rocky mountain range.

Walking back down the pilgrimage path to the other shrines gave some fantastic views of the rocky mountain range.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - Looks like an old postcard with fake colors, but thats what it really looked like.

Looks like an old postcard with fake colors, but thats what it really looked like.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - Lower down and a nice path had been cut through the bamboo. Bears live in the bamboo.

Lower down and a nice path had been cut through the bamboo. Bears live in the bamboo.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - Another shrine selling ice cream.

Another shrine selling ice cream.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - Apparently this tree is 1000 years old. Everyone touched it, so I touched it. Now I am 1000 years old.

Apparently this tree is 1000 years old. Everyone touched it, so I touched it. Now I am 1000 years old.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - Down even further and I have to go up again. I would have given this a miss but it was ages until the bus was due to come. When the bus did come I had

Down even further and I have to go up again. I would have given this a miss but it was ages until the bus was due to come.
When the bus did come I had to stand for the entire 1 hour journey home and watch old people give up their seat for each other and fight over who was the weaker of the two that needed the seat.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - The final shrine for today. Going back down those stairs was the most dangerous thing I did all day.

The final shrine for today. Going back down those stairs was the most dangerous thing I did all day.


Japan-Nagano-Togakushi-Hiking-Autumn Colors - I still had time for lunch before the bus. Apparently according to the signs, this area makes the best Soba in all of this sub prefectural special des

I still had time for lunch before the bus. Apparently according to the signs, this area makes the best Soba in all of this sub prefectural special designated soba boasting area.
I found a tiny shop, seating for 6 people, run by 2 old women who were at least 100. They spoke no English at all but we worked it out.
It was nice, but despite advertised health benefits of Soba, I dont really understand how wheat noodles, sweet sauce and deep fried battered leaves of the forest can be healthy.
So thrilled were they to have me give them about $8 in change for my lunch, they gave me a pat on the shoulder as I left.


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